1921 Census

Table of contents

Background

The 1921 Census marked the sixth regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began on June 1, 1921.

A total of 241 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 11,425 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.

Enumerators visited 233 census districts, divided into multiple enumeration units. These units were made up of cities, towns, groups of townships, Indian reserves, and other less well-defined areas. In unorganized regions, First Nation reserves and the Northwest Territories, special agents (including missionaries, employees of fur trading companies and of the Department of Indian Affairs and members of the Royal North West Mounted Police) acted as enumerators.

Enumerators collected information for 8,788,483 individuals distributed as follows:

  • Alberta (588,454)
  • British Columbia (524,582)
  • Manitoba (610,118)
  • New Brunswick (387,876)
  • Northwest Territories (8,473)
  • Nova Scotia (523,837)
  • Ontario (2,933,662)
  • Prince Edward Island (88,615)
  • Quebec (2,361,199)
  • Saskatchewan (757,510)
  • Yukon (4,157)

From paper to microfilm

In 1955, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics was authorized by the Public Records Committee to microfilm and destroy the original paper records of the 1921 Census. As a result, only a microfilm copy of the 1921 census exists as an archival holding. The microfilming of these records was not of consistent quality and not all images are readable.

The digitized images found on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website have been made by scanning the microfilms of the 1921 Census. As exact copies, a page that was unreadable on microfilm will also be unreadable on your computer screen. Title pages appear before each sub-district; they contain this information:

  • Census year (i.e. 1921)
  • Province or territory
  • District number and name
  • Sub-district number and name
  • Number of pages in the sub-district. The pages are not always ordered consecutively and in some cases may not exist.

These records and those of previous censuses are described in the Statistics Canada fonds, formerly Record Group 31 (RG31).

Schedules

The enumeration data were collected using 5 documents, known as schedules, which included a total of 565 questions.

Only Schedule 1 has been preserved.

  • Schedule 1, Population
  • Schedule 2, Agriculture
  • Schedule 3, Animals, Animal Products, Fruits, etc., not on Farms
  • Schedule 4, Manufacturing, Trading and Business Establishments
  • Schedule 5, Blind and Deaf-Mutes

Street indexes

For large cities, a street index was created by Statistics Canada after the taking of the 1921 census. The index can be used to quickly find in which sub-district or division a specific street, avenue or institution has been enumerated. Once you have located the street of interest to you, search the database using that information.

Instructions to enumerators and statistics

Instructions to enumerators were given on how to collect the names and other information in 1921. You can read these instructions in the publication Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators, Canada, Census and Statistics Office, 1921.

Statistical information can be found in the following volumes of the Report of the Sixth Census of Canada:

  • Population, number, sex and distribution, racial origins, religions, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1924 (AMICUS 7172121)
  • Population, age, conjugal condition, birthplace, immigration, citizenship, language, educational status, school attendance, blindness and deaf mutism, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925 (AMICUS 7172425)
  • Population, dwellings, families, conjugal condition of family head, children, orphanhood, wage earners, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925 (AMICUS 7172315)
  • Occupations, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1929 (AMICUS 7173070)
  • Agriculture, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925 (AMICUS 7172532)

About the database

This research tool contains 8,800,617 records that are searchable by name. The database entries are in the original language used in the documents. This information was not translated.

  • Search screen

    The search screen enables you to search by name of person or by place. The 1921 Census was enumerated by census districts and sub-districts, and the records were compiled accordingly. Therefore, knowledge of the districts and sub-districts is of value in locating either an individual or a geographic location.

    To assist with district names and sub-district descriptions, a list of 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts is provided.

    The search screen enables you to search by:

    • Keywords
    • Surname
    • Given Name(s)
    • Age
    • Province or Territory

    By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by:

    • District Name
    • District Number
    • Sub-District Name
    • Sub-District Number
    • Sub-District Description
    • Page Number

    You can enter one or multiple search terms, all of which can be used in combination. To use the fields in combination you should note that the default operator is "AND."

    Try a simple search first. You don’t have to put something in every field. See also Research tips.

    Keywords

     Search all fields, alone or in combination.

    Surname and given name(s)

    Search by name of person.

    Age

    • Enter numerical values only
    • For children under one year of age, fractions were used (for example, for 2 months, "2/12" was indicated)

    Province or territory

    Drop-down list allows you to retrieve all the returns for a specific province or territory.

    District name

    • Official name given to the census district by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics
    • Very often, districts correspond to counties
    • To determine a valid term, consult the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts

    District number

    • Assigned to each census district by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics
    • Consecutive number from 1 to 218
    • Can be used with a province to quickly retrieve results
    • To determine a valid term, consult the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts

    Sub-district name

    • Assigned to areas within each census district
    • Often correspond with place names within a county, and can include ward, town, village or parish names
    • To determine a valid term, consult the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts

    Sub-district number

    • Assigned by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics
    • Unique value within a census district
    • Numbers were used for this census
    • Can be used with a district name or number to quickly retrieve results
    • To determine a valid term, consult the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts

    Sub-district description

    • Assigned to areas within each census district
    • Often correspond to townships and ranges and can include town, village or parish names
    • To determine a valid term, consult the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts

    When you have entered your search terms, click on "Search". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.

  • How to interpret the results

    Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain an item description.

    Search results page

    The search results page has a thumbnail image of the census record and displays the following information:

    • Census Year (e.g. 1921)
    • Item number
    • Surname
    • Given Name(s)
    • Age
    • Province or territory
    • District Name

    From here you have two options:

    • Click on the underlined item number of a person to access the Item Page, which is a transcript of the record with the full archival reference.
    • Click on either JPG or PDF to view the full image. You can print the images or save the images onto your computer.

    Item page

    The item page has a digitized image of the actual census page available in JPG and PDF formats and contains the following fields:

    • Surname
    • Given Name(s)
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Ethnic Origin
    • Year of Immigration
    • Marital Status
    • Relationship
    • Province
    • District Name
    • District Number
    • Sub-District Name
    • Sub-District Number
    • Sub-District Description
    • Family Number
    • Line Number
    • Page Number
    • Reference
    • Item Number (unique number assigned to each entry in the database)

    To suggest a correction, click on the "Suggest a Correction" link to access an electronic form.

    To return to the Search results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.

Column headings and interpretation

For some of the following columns, additional numeric coding was used, such as the columns for Country or province of birth, Racial or tribal origin, Language and Occupation. The Canadian Century Research Infrastructure (CCRI) project at the University of Alberta provides lists of those codes. If you see a code number in a column, please refer to the CCRI 1921 Codes page.

  • Columns 1 to 35

    Numbered in the Order of Visitation

    Column 1. Dwelling house
    A count of the houses, numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 2. Family, household or institution
    A count of the family or household. Two or more families that occupied the same house were to be numbered separately.

    Name and Residence

    Column 3. Name of each person in family, household or institution.
    Surname (last name) first.

    Column 4. Place of Adobe (Section or Township)
    In rural localities, give parish, section, township, range and Meridian.

    Column 5. Place of Adobe (Municipality)
    In cities, towns and villages, give street and number of dwelling.

    Tenure and Class of Home

    Column 6. Home owned or rented
    “O” if the home is owned; “R” if home is rented.

    Column 7. If rented, give rent paid per month

    Column 8. Class of Houses
    “A” for Apartment House; “T” for Row or Terrace; “S” for single house; “D” for semi-detached house.

    Column 9. Materials of Construction
    “S” for stone; “B” for brick; “W” for wood; “B.V.” for brick veneered; “P.L.” for plastered with lime mortar; “P.C.” plastered with cement mortar; “Con.” For houses constructed of cement blocks or of concrete.

    Column 10. Rooms occupied by this family
    The number of rooms occupied by this family for living purposes.

    Personal Description

    Column 11. Relationship to head of family or household

    • The head of the family (or household or institution) was entered as such (that is, head), with the remaining members and their relation to the head (for example, wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder, lodger, partner).
    • People in an institution were described as officer, inmate, patient, prisoner, pupil, and so on. The chief officer of the institution was designated through his/her proper title (for example, warden, superintendent or principal).

    Column 12. Sex
    Denoted by “m” for male and “f” for female.

    Column 13. Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced or Legally Separated
    Denoted by the letter "s" for single, "m" for married, "w" for widowed (man or woman), "d" for divorced or "l.s." for legally separated.

    Column 14. Age at last Birthday

    • For people one year of age and over, the number of years completed before June 1, 1921.
    • For children under one year of age, fractions were used (for example, for 2 months, "2/12" was indicated).

    Nativity

    • For people born outside of Canada, the name of the country of origin (for example, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, etc.).
    • For people born in Canada, the name of the province or territory.
    • These instructions are valid for columns 15, 16 and 17.

    Column 15. Person

    Column 16. Father

    Column 17. Mother

    Citizenship

    Column 18. Year of immigration to Canada

    • The year in which the individual moved to Canada from another country. It should be the year of the first entry into Canada.
    • Also applies to Canadian-born persons who had lived in another country and have returned to Canada.

    Column 19. Year of Naturalization

    For persons who were born in a country outside the United Kingdom or any of its dependencies and who had become naturalized.

    Column 20. Nationality

    • “Canadian” for those who lived in Canada and who had acquired rights of citizenship.
    • For Non-Canadians, the country of their birth, or the country to which they professed allegiance.
    • A married woman is to be reported as of the same nationality as her husband.
    • A foreign-born child under 21 years of age is to be reported as of the same nationality as his parents.

    Race, language and religion

    Column 21. Racial or tribal origin

    Column 22. Can speak English
    Yes or no.

    Column 23. Can speak French
    Yes or no.

    Column 24. Language other than English or French spoken as Mother tongue
    The language spoken by every person other than English or French written in full.

    Column 25. Religious body, Denomination or Community to which this person adheres or belongs
    The religion to which an individual claimed to belong written in full.

    Education

    Column 26. Can read
    Yes or no.

    Column 27. Can write
    Yes or no.

    Column 28. Months at school since Sept. 1, 1920
    The number of months the child attended school between September 1st, 1920 and June 1st, 1921.

    Profession, Occupation and Employment

    Important notice

    For statistical analysis, a numerical code (for example 00-00, 05-57 or 09-80) was used for occupations and added in column 28 after the census was taken. It consists of two parts:

    • the first part from 00 to 99 indicates the industry
    • the second part from 00 to 119, represents the occupation

    Consult the 1921 Census Occupational Codes chart [PDF 1.8 MB] to obtain the meaning of the code. The information was taken from the publications Alphabetical Index to Occupations, Sixth Census, 1921, Ottawa, Census and Statistics Office, 1921.

    Column 29. Chief occupation or trade
    The more accurate description of the trade for every person of 10 years and over.

    Column 30. Employer “E”, Employee or Worker “W”, Working on own account “OA”

    Column 31. “a” if “Employer” state principal product, “b” if “Employee” state where employed as “Farm”, “Cotton Mill”, “Foundry”, “Grocery”, etc. “c” if on “Own account” state nature of work

    Column 32. Total earnings past 12 months since June 1st, 1920
    Total amount earned between June 1st, 1920 and May 31st, 1921.

    Column 33. If an employee, where you out of work June 1st, 1921
    Yes or no.

    Column 34. Number of weeks unemployed in the past 12 months since June 1st, 1920

    Column 35. Number of weeks unemployed since June 1st, 1920 due to sickness

Common abbreviations

A complete list of abbreviations for places of birth in Canada is on our main census page.

  • Other abbreviations

    Gender

    • M (Male)
    • F (Female)

    Marital status

    • S (Single)
    • M (Married)
    • W (Widow / Widower)
    • V: Veuf / Veuve (Widow / Widower)
    • D (Divorced)
    • L.S. (Legally separated)

    Months

    • Jan. (January)
    • Feb. (February)
    • Mar. (March)
    • Apr. (April)
    • Aug. (August)
    • Sept. (September)
    • Oct. (October)
    • Nov. (November)
    • Dec. (December)

    Religion

    • B.C. (Bible Church)
    • C. (of) E. (Church of England)
    • C. (of) S. (Church of Scotland)
    • E.M.C. (Episcopal Methodist Church)
    • F.C. (Free Church (Presbyterian))
    • M.E.C. (Methodist Episcopal Church)
    • P.C.L.P. (Presbyterian-Canada and Lower Provinces)
    • P.F.C. (Presbyterian Free Church)
    • R.C. (Roman Catholic)
    • R.P. (Reformed Presbyterian)
    • U.P. (United Presbyterian)
    • W.M. (Wesleyan Methodist)

    Other

    • Items to be counted as one were to be indicated by either a downward stroke (|) or the figure "1."
    • Items to be counted as zero were to be indicated by a dash (-) or the space was left blank.
    • Ditto marks (") were not to be used, except where specifically called for under the instructions.

Issues about this census and this database

  • Some census records have not survived. Consult the list of 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts to find out what sub-districts are missing.
  • Some smaller sub-districts were combined by the enumerators. If you are doing a search by sub-district number, use only the first number for combined sub-districts. For example, in District 114, sub-districts 43 and 44 were combined. Enter only 43 when searching for that sub-district.
  • To move to the next image, change the jpg number in the URL box at the top of the screen. 
    For example, for image http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?app=Census1921&op=img&id=e002893530 change the jpg number to 2893531.
  • On some pages, part or all of the name column is missing because the left-hand margin of the page had been cut off. Since that information was missing from the microfilm, it is also missing from the digitized images. The originals no longer exist. Those pages are indexed in the database, but the information is incomplete.  For example, the database entry might give age, place of birth, etc., but no name or only a partial name.
  • Some of the original documents are very difficult to read. Therefore, some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete. See Research tips below.

Research tips

The Research tips section on our main census page includes basic and advanced search tips and strategies.  There are also instructions on how to search by place.

Other resources

A series of electoral maps were created in 1924, based on the population data collected in 1921. Those maps are not digitized. You can visit LAC and view the maps on site or you can order a copy of one of the maps. Cite the reference as Electoral district maps, G1116.F7.C3 1924 (Mikan 204320) and indicate the province or territory and the name of the District.

The 1921 census has also been indexed on our partner’s website: Ancestry (subscription required; free at many public libraries).

Credit

Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Ancestry.ca, without which this project would not have been possible.

How to obtain copies

You can print the JPG or PDF images or save the images onto your computer. Please do not submit copy requests because we do not provide copies of census records that are already digitized online.

The 1921 census is only available in digitized format. Microfilm reels are not available for consultation or for purchase.

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